- The Donbas region also provides Russia with geopolitical benefits that go beyond cultural intimacy.
- The United States has committed more weapons to Ukraine as Russia steps up its attacks.
After months of warfare, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the battle of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine on Monday.
While Ukraine withdrew from the bombed-out city of Lysychansk, Russia claims it now has complete control of Luhansk. Ukraine has called the retreat tactical and stated it will launch a counteroffensive.
In the meantime, Russia has declared that it will hand over Luhansk to the “Luhansk People’s Republic,” which it supports and whose independence it recognised prior to the start of the fighting.
The area, its significance
The Donbas region on the border between Ukraine and Russia is made up of the two cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The largest coal reserves in Ukraine are located in Donbas, which is a significant industrial centre and from a resource viewpoint.
These two regions declared themselves separate “people’s republics” in 2014 when they rebelled against the sovereignty of the Ukrainian government, although Russia did not legally recognise them until February 2022. A Reuters story claims that Russia has supported the regions over the years by providing aid, vaccines, and other supplies.
Putin officially recognised the “Luhansk People’s Republic” and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” in late February and sent Russian soldiers there for “peacekeeping,” which erupted into a full-fledged conflict.
Due to its location on the border between Russia and Ukraine, the territory serves as a symbol of the tensions and difficulties that exist in the relationships between the two nations. Donbas has traditionally had a stronger affinity for Russia due to its big population of Russian speakers and approximately 40% ethnic Russian people.
During Ukraine’s time as a member of the USSR, many people complained that the government did not grant Ukrainians enough autonomy to preserve their culture and language. Russian speakers who lived in the Donbas under Ukrainian administration shared this viewpoint.
However, the Donbas region also provides Russia with geopolitical benefits that go beyond cultural intimacy. Russia wants to gain control of the area in order to establish a “land bridge” to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Due to the freezing temperatures of Russia’s seaports, many of them are impassable throughout the winter. It has year-round access to the Black Sea and warm water ports in Crimea, such Sevastopol, that are situated there.
Russia’s next move
According to the governor of Luhansk, Russia will now try to seize the neighbouring Donetsk area after seizing the eastern Ukrainian border territory of Luhansk and the city of Lysychansk. In an interview with Reuters, Governor Serhiy Gaidai stated that he anticipated attacks on Sloviansk and the town of Bakhmut in particular as Russia attempts to annex all of “Donbas.”
However, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russian soldiers are currently concentrating their efforts on Siversk, Fedorivka, and Bakhmut in the Donetsk area, of which almost half is already in Russian control.
After Ukraine just acknowledged the fall of Sievierodonetsk, another significant eastern city, Lysychansk also fell.
The United States has committed more weapons to Ukraine as Russia steps up its attacks. According to Reuters, US President Joe Biden announced on June 30 that the US will give additional $800 million in military aid and armaments. Prior to that, it acquired US supplies of the long-range weapon system known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).